Friday, July 4, 2008

At the Sea-Side by Robert Louis Stevenson

At the Sea-Side

When I was down beside the sea
A wooden spade they gave to me
To dig the sandy shore.

My holes were empty like a cup.
In every hole the sea came up,
Till it could come no more.
--Robert Louis Stevenson

I thought about this poem while we were at the beach with family, and some cousins dug a big hole for a sand castle. Also, when the tide came up so high there was standing water, not only in the holes, but across large flat areas of beach. I've said it before, but I really love how RLS captures the essence of childhood experience.

I worry, reading yesterday’s post, that people will think that I didn’t enjoy having my family come to visit -- especially the Ahlstroms where I focus on how tired and grumpy Elizabeth got at night. Honestly, that post was meant to show just how many stressful things happened last month, and explain (if only to myself) why I’m so frazzled now. I’ve had a busy month, and I deserve to be.

Elizabeth was very nearly the best baby you could hope to have during a month like that, but even the best baby gets tired and grumpy when she doesn’t have naps or familiar surroundings most of the time. I doubt that most of my relatives even noticed it except for a few times. For the most part she smiled obligingly at every new face, laughed and giggled at songs and games people played with her, got held by one stranger after another without batting an eye, submitted to the loving ministrations of her young cousins, and generally flirted and cooed made herself pleasant.

It was mostly me who had to deal with the “poop dishes” as Peter calls the clothes that I sometimes leave in the sink to soak after a major diaper blowout (She had outgrown the stage 2 diapers, and they just couldn’t contain the volume, no matter how much I wanted to save money by using them up). It was mostly me who listened to her cry and had her fight me when I was trying to feed and soothe her in a strange house, with 50 or so strange people, without air conditioning, in the middle of a heat wave. Other people could hear her through the closed door, but it’s just not the same. It was mostly me who held and comforted and fed her in noisy restaurants when she’s been kept up far past her bedtime. I didn’t get much to eat while trying to juggle the baby and thaw a bottle in a teacup that’s so full it overflows and gets water all over the table (why don’t waitresses see that if I ask for hot water to thaw a bottle, I might want to put the bottle INTO the hot water?). Most other people at the table didn’t notice because it was so noisy in the first place, and because I did a good job keeping her quiet, which doesn’t mean either of us were particularly relaxed.

She did like the beach. She’s not a big fan of the sunglasses I bought, but her sunhats and swimsuits are adorable, and she submits to the sunscreen. Sand is interesting enough, but all she wants to do is eat it, and that just makes her mouth gritty (not to mention her diapers for the next week). One time, we got to the beach just after a blowout, and just took all her clothes off and put her under the fresh water showers, which she thought was pretty fun too. It’s hot out there, and she’s not happy about that, but she thinks water is great fun. There’s lots of fun splashing and letting the cool waves wash over her feet and the wind blow in her face. Grandma and Grandpa Stay spent a lot of time in an uncomfortable crouch so she could be down in the water, but quickly be lifted to safety if a big wave came. Once she started turning purple and shivering, she happily latched on and did the best eating she did all week, filling up with nice warm milk, getting her energy back, and snuggling with Mama.

Cousins were fun too. My aunt Dalita had just had another baby, so her other kids (some as young as 6 or 8) thought that they were baby experts and would try to pick up Elizabeth and carry her around when she was upset the few times I tried to let her cry it out in an upstairs bedroom. Elizabeth’s four-year-old cousin Martin was particularly solicitous. One day, he read her a book about big cats (“Actually, I’m not reading, I’m just showing her the pictures.” he said.) It was so cute to see him holding the big book in front of him and turning the pages like a Kindergarten teacher so she could see the pictures. Elizabeth just wanted to eat the book, but she was entertained trying to grab the pages as they went by. He was also kind to her when he was sitting next to her in an overpacked station wagon. He made sure the sun wasn’t in her eyes, and he held her bottle for her till it was gone, then put in her pacifier, and sang a song to help her relax and try to sleep. His brother Aidan asked me at every opportunity if he could hold “Baby Elizabeth” or push her stroller. It would be really nice if they could all grow up close to each other. Kate, on the other hand, was almost totally uninterested in her young cousin, as you can see from the pictures we convinced her to take for my book of relatives holding Elizabeth.

1 comment:

  1. When I showed Kate the pictures later, she said, "It's me and Cousin Elizabeth!" So I guess something must have sunk in.

    Yeah, those late meals were rough.